Friday, April 25, 2008

That Immediate Response to a Crisis

It was good for Continental Airlines at the West Palm Beach, FL hub that folks on flight 1940 weren't digitally astute. This flight was due to leave for Newark, NJ, Sunday, April 6, 2008, 8:00 PM. Due to mechanical problems, the plane wasn't approved for flying until Monday, April 7 at 2:00 PM. A tech adept would've fired up the laptop or handheld and blogged about it, moment by moment.

It took the airline hours to explain that a part needed to be replaced. This part had to be flown in from Newark. However, the part flown in was the wrong one, so they had to fly back to Newark to get the right part.

These customers were just a bit miffed about waiting, about not knowing and about not getting to Newark on Sunday. They were lodged at a nearby hotel sometime after 12 midnight and came back around eight in the morning expecting to leave at 9:15 AM but the part and the wrong part and the exchange got in the way.

These customers wanted breakfast and clear information about when they'd get back to Newark Liberty International Airport. They got soda, water and very patient customer service. When a customer got too testy, a security agent with a large German Shepherd and a pistol would come out to see the person off Gate B2.

As the morning expired, Continental offered to refund credit card purchases, switch to JetBlue and seating on Continental flights to Houston to connect to Newark-bound planes. Continental also offered $8 food vouchers, good at any eatery in the gate but, most people balked at "Just $8!" With $8 dollars, a burger, pizza, fries, drink, newspaper or pastry could have been had. One woman, once aware of the voucher, said she could get a cocktail.
One Spanish-speaking couple remained cool throughout. If they weren't reading magazines, they stared intently into a laptop. Maybe they knew to fire off messages to Continental and the media. When a group of exasperated flyers got tipped about blogging about it, no one seemed to take the bait. The suggestion was carefully explained: get access to the Internet, find Continental Airline's Web site, go to the blog or find another blog that deals with airline mayhem. There were no takers in this small crowd.

Well that was one citizen journalism opportunity that may have gotten away. That Spanish-speaking couple wasn't queried.

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